The town hall has launched a vast project to renovate its coastline using a giant dragon, a belvedere and a city-stadium. The city hopes to make people forget the way migrants are treated.
Calais wants to change its image. Stop making headlines because its beach is the most important point of passage for exiles to England, with its makeshift camps. Calais intends to become “The seaside resort of the 21st century”. The city has put the means there, massively supported by the public authorities. In November 2015, a territorial development contract of 50 million euros was signed with the State, won hard by Mayor Natacha Bouchart (LR) to compensate for the damage caused by the migratory presence. With the supplements accumulated by the region, the department and the community of Calais, it is a budget of 155 million euros in which the city was able to draw.
At the head of this change, a dragon, a beautiful machine designed by the Machine company, weighing 72 tons, which takes tourists and children along the seafront… when it is not under maintenance. He has an attracted way to support his weight. And makes the project out of the ordinary, recognizes Thomas Chavannes, of the Base agency, in charge of the redevelopment.
Move the car away and widen the walk
The building bars are still there, blocking the view of the magical ballet of the ferries, like toys placed on the sea, but the charmless succession of parking lots, roads and dyke has been broken. In a first phase, the link between the beach and the city was recreated, by the boring of a new avenue, with a landscaping which takes again the characteristics of the northern coastline, its dunes and its marigolds. Vauban’s citadel, at the entrance to the port, is being enhanced.
Then, phase 2 of the project moved the car away, widened the promenade, installed a skatepark on 4000 square meters, a city-stadium and a belvedere which does justice to the site. The historic chip shops have been reinstalled in their new designer box. Frame-shaped shelters welcome walkers. Pour gaze at the sea or nibble. “Calais residents are used to eating their fries in their car, it is a symbolic wink, a little cocoon for the days when it rains”, smiles Eric Heux, the city’s general manager of technical services. Total cost, excluding dragon: 45.9 million euros.
Calais finally offered itself, for 250,000 euros, at the beginning of the summer, a promotion of its new beach, with an advertising campaign in Lille, Paris, on the Belgian coast and in Kent. With a slogan, Calais LA beach, an assumed reference in Los Angeles. “It is a success, affirms the president of the Union of traders, Rodolphe Leprince. People come for the dragon, it’s a certainty, we saw it circulating all summer, it was full ”, he explains. 27% of attendance in addition to the tourist office, between August 2020 and 2021, confirms the town hall. Note from Rodolphe Leprince: “The mayor understood that it is only with major projects that we could change the image.”
For their part, Human Rights Observers, which compiles the human rights abuses committed against migrants, parodied the visual of the Calais LA plage campaign, and recalled that “The summer in Calais, it is also 278 evictions organized by the prefecture”.
And Saturday in Liberation, our 16-page supplement …